I woke up from my first uncomfortable Utah campsite. The warm-ish nights in unquestionable locations made me lax, and I curled up on a tarp instead of setting up my tent. After the cold night, my sleeping bag was fairly well covered in frost, with a matching skin of ice in my water.
Because I was camped in a fairly ambiguous spot(It appeared to be a driveway, actually...), I didn't wait around for the sun to come up. Wet gear goes in, gloves go on, and I head back to Hatch, hoping to find some food.
No luck in Hatch. One tiny C-store doesn't open until 10am(It's 7am), and the others look to be shut down for good. Guess I didn't need to eat all that bad... on towards the Red Canyon it is. An easy, pleasant ride, quickly done. There are a few trails going off into the BLM land outside the more developed area(Developed by Utah standards. It has a visitor center.), but I'm dumb so I don't investigate them.
I pulled off into a trailhead area to change out of my greasy sweat-in then slept-in clothing. By this point it was sunny and warm again, at least into the mid 70s. Took a rest at the Red Canyon Visitor Center to recharge and refill a few miles later, then onto the bike trail. It's very nice - 5 miles of well maintained trail. For the most part it parallels the road. It looks like they keep people in designated campgrounds here, but I doubt it would be problematic to camp off the bike trail where it diverges from the road. The smell of Juniper and Ponderosa is strong here, green sharp against the red rocks.
The ride eastwards is a gradual climb. Even with a steady headwind, it's fairly undemanding. Still, it goes on a for quite a while and as the land flattens out at the end of the trail, I saw what I was expecting: An elevation marker, indicating the top of a climb. Few of these seems to actually be marked on my Utah state map. No complaints here. The rock formations quickly vanished and turned to ranchland while I rode along reading about Edward Abbey's funeral on my cellphone.
I've still got that nasty, slick-under-the-clothes feeling from marinading in my chilled sweat last night, so I treat myself to some hostess cupcakes and a $2 shower at a C-store RV park on the way to Bryce Canyon. I had to wait while the showers were cleaned, by there was a friendly cat to keep me company and cupcakes to eat, so no problem.
This last bit of road, two miles or so to the tourist zone outside of Bryce Canyon, I'll have to backtrack tomorrow. I'm not sure if I even want to go into the park(No shuttle running yet, no hiker biker sites, $12 entry, only one way in and out...), but there is free camping in the Dixie National Forest right outside the entrance. Every time I go into the Dixie National Forest, I'm enchanted. The patchwork of land encompassed by it is beautiful conifer forest.
After a stop into the inevitable overpriced tourist grocery giftstore(I'm really treating myself, today..) for a can of corn, a top off of water, and a half hour of battery charging by the shuttle stop, I find my forest service road. There is so much evidence of camping it feels a bit like a very spacious, clean campground back there. The roads are very rideable hard-packed black dirt. Maybe I'll just explore them a bit, tomorrow, instead of going into the Park.
To those of you reading, I hope you take my cynical tourist comments with a grain of salt. I'm pretty much okay with most of the stuff done in the name of tourist revenue. Everything humanity does is pretty destructive these days, and tourism is less so then most. And as with everything else, the people involved are just people, most of them pretty decent.
Once I'd set up my camp down a forest service road a ways, one of the hotel employees came cruising through on a golf-cart(Goes to show just how nice these roads are) and chatted for a bit. I can't remember her name, but I believe she was from the east coast. She offered to give me a ride to some property owned by the hotel(They have a lot of it) where there is a wonderful view of some Hoodoos and a waterfall. Now I have a few shots of the iconic Utah Hoodoos, just in case I don't go into Bryce tomorrow.